Oh no, no more Sospeso

I caught up with Laura Smith a week or two ago and found out that this Friday will be the last Sospeso Reading:

The readings have run for over a year, which I reckon is a pretty good run given that it was originallly conceived as just one or two events at the end of a Cafe Poet residency. Now I’d like to move on to other projects. (22 June 2010)

I asked Laura why she hadn’t brought in someone to replace her. When it comes to organising your own poetry night, most people want to start from scratch; apparently secondhand poetry nights aren’t as appealing as secondhand tea cosies.

So, if you haven’t been to a Sospeso Reading, this is your last chance. Seat yourself at one of the tables at Caffe Sospeso around seven this Friday for a quick meal and get treated to a ‘first taste’ of Tiggy Johnson’s latest poetry collection as well as spoken word from Anna Fern.

For those who wish to reminisce, here’s some thoughts on Healing (February’s Sospeso night) and a video of Michael Reynolds’ performance.

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Slowly getting back to work

Being antisocial pays off occasionally. I actually wrote something. Now whenever someone asks me, ‘So what have you been working on?’ I’ll be able to reply, ‘A second-generation Vietnamese Australian’s observations on the gentrification of Footscray.’

I’ve also read the latest Charlaine Harris book, rewatched most of season two of True Blood and the iView documentary on Krakatoa. Yep, I’ve been super-productive, yes I have.

But I really should get back to work. I’ll be meeting with Laura Smith later this week to see if she’ll review something for me. I always feel bad about not paying enough attention to poetry in my journal reviews, but I feel underqualified when it comes to critiquing poetry. Hopefully Laura will be more attentive towards the poetry side of things.

I’ll also try to get onto that Ampersand review. Issue 2 has been been sitting on my shelf, looking forlorn from its continual rejection, when it really shouldn’t because it’s such a handsome-looking journal.

Some thoughts on healing from the Sospeso Readings

Due to staffing issues, this month’s Sospeso had to relocate to the Town Hall Gallery and consequently things felt a little more formal. I didn’t read last Friday, but a couple of regulars did, and I wonder if they felt intimidated by the art on the walls, the rows of seats, and the prohibition of food.

Artwork by Andrea Kaltwasser @ the Town Hall Gallery.

Wagga’s David Gilbey recited poetry inspired by his sojourn in Japan. The pieces were mostly personal observations of a westerner, though ‘Proctor’, a poem about a Japanese examination room, managed to transcend its geographical and cultural boundaries.

Blurry photo of David Gilbey as he performs at Sospeso's 'Healing' Reading (5/2/10).

Following Gilbey were a series of healing-themed open mics. Lovemaking was likened to swimming, and men were praised by Catherine Bateson, and Initially No vented about psychosomatic guitar strings; Jennifer Compton instructed us on open mic etiquette; there was talk about connecting the dots, and mushroom clouds when one opens one’s mouth; and Fiona shared her personal experience with cancer.

Initially No talks about the guitar string in her foot (5/2/10).

Katherine Phelps makes a heart-shaped balloon for Sospeso's open mic (5/2/10).

Jennifer Compton knits while listening to some kick-arse open mic poetry (5/2/10).

Randall Stephens capped off the night with his collection of ‘Plan Be’ poems. Poetic in parts, Stephens’ monologue is conversational, narratively driven, and earnestly delivered. He’s a seasoned spoken word performer, comfortable onstage (unlike the rest of us). His first poem was my favourite with its nervous optimism towards new love, mirroring my own fluttery state of mind.

Randall Stephens speaks of new love at Sospeso (5/2/10).

Overall, it was a great turnout. Congrats to Laura for organising things at such short notice (and for making corny jokes about being wounded by Caffe Sospeso). Laura Smith, you should MC more often.

Meanwhile, thanks to Zoe Renee for her awesome teacup badge, and her Man in a Shark Suit. Nabbed them off her while I was at Sospeso/Camby Market. They’re the best.

Zoe Renee and Man in a Shark Suit (5/2/10).

Me and my new teacup badge. Thanks Zoe! (5/2/10)

Lifted Brow’s Atlas Launch

Atlas liasons at Bella Union Bar:

gaijin geishas and short shorts ninjas

suicide bombers who can’t be farked after a beer

tie skirts and kilts and (hopefully) underwear

Angela Jolie with a basketful of babies

and fur stole translations

on a bright blue sea.

England represent (Laura Smith). (22/1/10)

Norweigan (Angela Meyer) and gaijin geisha (Lisa Dempster) at The Lifted Brow's Atlas launch. (22/1/10)

Poetry Fridays: Power Dynamics

No power drills in sight last night, but I did get to dine on performance poetry and spaghetti at Hawthorn’s Caffe Sospeso. As mentioned in an earlier post, Laura Smith organises monthly poetry nights at Sospeso, and it’s a chillaxing way to cap off the working week. This month was MC-ed by Melissa Delaney and featured guest readings from Vera Di Campli San Vito and Melbourne Cafe Poet Andy Jackson.

Vera pioneered ‘pick a poem out of the magic vessel/hat/thing’, where the audience would pick out titles from a red hat and the performer would read the corresponding poem, and during the second half of the evening, Andy continued with her Dadaist arrangement.

Open mic was short and sweet. My favourites included Michael Reynolds’ tautologist poem, and a narrative detailing the intimacies of the dental chair from a poet whose name I failed to catch*. There was a particularly memorable performance from an older lady called Josephine: she read a beautiful piece inspired by All Souls Day and then sang a capella. A couple of pedestrians walked past during her stint and stared at her back, probably wondering what this woman in canary yellow was doing; they missed out on the opportunity to marvel at the way her lips wrapped around the foreign phonetics of her song ‘Mamma Blues’. 

I also read ‘Husband and Wife Before Dinner’, something I wrote a few years back. Being the first time I had performed anything from memory, I blanked halfway through the piece but still managed to score a Readings gift voucher, which will be put to good use. I also met some artistic types from TINA ’09. who READ MY BLOG and consequently deserve an exclamation party!!!!! Here’s a doodle they left on a napkin:

Napkin doodles left behind @ Power Dynamics (6/11/09)

Napkin doodles @ Power Dynamics (6/11/09)

I’m not sure when the next Caffe Sospeso night will be, but details will be posted by yours truly some time in late November/early December.

*UPDATE: Since writing this post, I’ve been informed that his name is Maurice Mcnamara. 🙂

Poetry Fridays: People & Places

On Friday, I turned up at the wrong venue for The Bedroom Philosopher, but I did manage to go to Laura Smith’s poetry gig at Caffe Sospeso. When I first heard that Sospeso was in Hawthorn, I got excited. Hawthorn, Camberwell, and Canterbury make up most of Melbourne’s private-school belt; most poets stay clear of such suburbs, preferring to ‘grunge it’ in the inner north and south. Unfortunately, I live in the east, and driving to Northcote or Fitzroy gets old after a couple of trips. Caffe Sospeso is the closest poetry gathering to home and I’m hoping to patronise it many more times.

I came late to the gig, so the only feature poet I got to see was Susan Fealy. I remember hearing Susan’s ‘Horse Lattitudes’ at the Verandah 23 launch; I hadn’t liked the poem during that reading, but Susan performed it well last Friday. I also enjoyed her poem about an elderly woman; I wish I could recall the name of it, but work and wine have turned me senile. Apologies to Susan!

With very little persuasion from Laura, I got up and performed ‘Red Den Beauty’ (published in Harvest) for the open mic. Compared with Read You Bastards, I was much more relaxed for this reading (it helps when there’s at least one friend in the audience). My poem won compliments from a couple of punters; I can see why performance appeals so much to some writers.

Caffe Sospeso runs their poetry night monthly, and the next gig’s happening early November. Details of the when and how will be posted up closer to the date.

Spruiking and self-loathing in Melbourne

For the last couple of days I’ve been trying to make a recording of my story, ‘The Beast’, for Jeremy Balieus from Black Rider Press. I hate the sound of my voice. At work, I always get comments like, ‘Oh you sound dreadful. Are you sick?’ Or, ‘You should do phone sex.’ My piece is also lengthy for a spoken word reading; I can’t read the piece without stumbling over something.

On the other hand, I’ve had a win with DUSA Bookshops, convincing them to stock a whole bunch of Brows, so the citizens of Burwood, Warrnambool, and Geelong will no longer have to travel to Melbourne’s inner ‘burbs for a copy.

Speaking of Melbourne’s inner ‘burbs, the shit’s going down over the next couple of days. Geoff Lemon’s leaving us for South America, and tonight’s Wordplay will be his last one for a mesozoic era. If you haven’t been to Wordplay, it’s one of Melbourne’s best poetry, hip-hop, and spoken mic gigs. I went to Wordplay’s MWF gig and it showcased the likes of Nathan Curnow, Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Chloe Jackson, and Ben Ezra. The gig lives at the Dan O’Connell Hotel, so head down there around eight for a night of poetry action.

On Friday, Laura Smith’s poetry gig is happening at Caffe Sospeso and will feature Fiona Stuart, Susan Fealy and MC Deborah Vanderwerp. I saw Laura perform a couple of weeks ago at Dreaming Highways and liked her poetry, so I’ll try to swing by on my way home from The Bedroom Philosopher.

Yep, I am going to another Bedroom Philosopher giglet. Like that Spiderbait song, Justin Heazlewood is ‘fucken awesome’. I’ve been listening to his latest album, Brown & Orange; its seventh track has lines like ‘Jesus was an intruder on Big Brother’ and ‘Church attendances doubled, then tripled. People brought in signs like John 3:16 and “Jesus is emo”…’ Heazlewood’s performing nightly for Melbourne Fringe Festival until 10 October 2009. Catch him while you can.

I’m also looking forward to Attract/Repel, which is also a part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. Written and directed by Ming-Zhu Hii, Attract/Repel examines race, identity, similarity and difference. Thanks Estelle for telling me about it. 

One more plug and I swear I am done. EWF’s Reader is launching on Monday 12 October. For those of you who haven’t witnessed Dion Kagan’s spruiking, the Reader is a how-to for emerging writers (or at least that’s what I think it is):

The Reader is Steven Amsterdam on writers’ workshops, Clem Bastow on freelancing, Jen Breach on writing comics, Mel Campbell on pitching to editors, Kathy Charles on shameless self-promotion, Stephanie Convery on writing Black Saturday, Olivia Davis on fear and writing practices, Lisa Dempster on how much writers earn, Koraly Dimitriadis talks to Christos Tsiolkas, Caroline Hamilton compares writers’ festivals and music festivals, Stu Hatton on his mentorship with Dorothy Porter, Jane Hawtin discusses publishing academic research for a general audience, Andrew Hutchinson recalls the Emerging Writers’ Festival, Tiggy Johnson on parenthood and writing, Krissy Kneen on not writing about sex, Benjamin Law on failure, Angela Meyer reviews books for writers, Jennifer Mills on the politics of publishing and engaging with readers, Anthony Noack on good grammar, John Pace on re-drafting your screenplay, Ryan Paine on the role of the critic, Ben Pobjie on writing comedy, Robert Reid on the role of the contemporary playwright, Aden Rolfe on the emergentsia, Jenny Sinclair on the landscape of her book research, Chris Summers talks to Lally Katz about theatre writing, Mia Timpano on how to cultivate the ultimate author profile photo, Estelle Tang on Christopher Currie and blogging fiction, Simmone Michelle-Wells pens a letter to her younger self, Cameron White reviews alternatives to Microsoft Word. (Estelle Tang, 7 October 2009)

At sevenish, I’ll be heading down to get my copy at Bertha Brown. You go get your copy too. 

Okay, back to hating the sound of my voice.

Dreaming Highways

Today I was going to write about Sunday’s and Monday’s happenings but I GOT LOCKED OUT OF LA MAMA SO I DID NOT GET TO WATCH ANY PERFORMANCES.

Sunday’s ‘Dreaming Highways’ was good, however. I didn’t know what to expect; I didn’t even know where Albert Park tram stop was, but I found it and I found the poetry, and it was an intimate gathering that had gathered amongst the train/tram paraphernalia to listen to travel-themed poetry. The event was organised to showcase the Melbourne Cafe Poets for National Poetry Week. (Melbourne Cafe Poets write poetry in cafes in exchange for free coffee. For more on Melbourne Cafe Poets, check out the Australian Poetry Centre’s updates or fan ‘Cafe Poets’ on Facebook.) There were some energetic performances but my favourite poems were from Laura Smith. I have never been to India or eaten a mangosteen but I have had my share of rural towns and sullen check-out chicks, so her words resonated most with me.